Who would you go to for advice on starting a business?

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English: Trawler Hauling Nets Source: http://w...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my father was big in fishing and the fish in those days were more plentiful it was very tempting to become a professional fishermen. So tempting, in fact, that several people who had full-time jobs did so. One youngster who came fishing with us wasn’t particularly motivated to work for a boss and learnt as much as he could from my father about how to fish professionally.

My father showed him everything he could from how to find fish with an echosounder, spot the right birds and the shoals that would be under the birds, the right lines to use, books, bait and how to clean fish. All of this took place over several years and eventually the young man graduated from my father’s mentorship and when to catch fish professionally from the boats in Kalk Bay harbour. This young man became so good at fishing that he spent the next 30 years skippering a boat as a professional line fisherman in False Bay and later went on to other forms of fishing.

The point is that often we can’t go to books, magazines and even courses to practice a trade that is not in the mainstream. Then they are some lines of work that may involve study but there’s no guarantee that you are going to become good at it. This is where the challenge lies because you can learn about being an entrepreneur or small business owner but there is no guarantee that you will be able to do the “job”.

Mentorship one way to bridge the gap between someone wanting to be a would-be entrepreneur and someone who is capable of running a small business. For example, someone I know worked for several years under his father after having some company jobs and was well positioned later on in life to buy a second-hand business and refurbish it for growth. In those years that he was with his father he was able to learn face-to-face about various aspects of the business including operations, sales, credit, handling debtors and cash flow. Learning firsthand like this was a valuable experience that he would not have been able to obtain from books, DVDs, entrepreneur courses and so-called small business workshops.

But what about someone who isn’t able to find a mental in his or her field? What avenues are then available to obtain coaching in the finer points or nuances of starting and running a small business?

Today with the Internet we are able to take advantage of online coaches or mentors who can assist with teaching you the ropes to start a small enterprise and run one. Of course, this is not as good as face-to-face on-the-job learning but it is a reasonable substitute way you have no other option. But if you’re going to search for an online coach you need to be careful. You need to find someone who has a proven track record and especially who has worked in the area of business that you wish to enter. Not only this but the person should have started small businesses of their own rather than just be someone who is a subject matter expert and has no practical, hands-on experience in the real world of business.

Finding a mentor for your small business interests may turn out to be difficult but it is worthwhile if you want to reduce your risks as an entrepreneur and accelerate your learning curve in starting and running a small business. Make sure you get excellent references before you hand over your hard-earned cash to pay for a mentor. Avoid long-term contracts and rather engage with someone on a trial basis first. A trustworthy, knowledgeable mentor can be worth their weight in gold.

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